Chapter 23: Concealed Nudity
We jogged to the next canyon mouth. When we reached it and were walking off the run before getting down to work, the growing heat of the morning made me remember a paused conversation thread. “It is getting warm out, isn’t it, Kaitlyn?”
With a bit of an edge in her voice, she said, “This is the first time you’ve opened a conversation by talking about the weather. Are you getting bored with me already?”
I laughed, “No, not even a tiny bit. But consider: are your shoulders feeling warm? Warmer than the rest of your body, I mean.”
After a few seconds, her voice sounded from the air beside me, “Well, no. That’s weird. My feet are hot, but only because I’m walking on the sand, which is now toasty, unlike this morning. But my shoulders feel like they’re the same temperature as the rest of my upper body.” I could hear her hands shishing over her skin.
“Yes, it is weird, isn’t it? The sun’s beating down on your shoulders, and yet all you feel is the same warmth all over. You will now be wondering why, but I want you to tell me.”
There was only silence for a while. I was still in a trance state, so I could tell where she was, but I could have been alone out there otherwise, what with the empty scene and the still desert air.
“Light!” she blurted out. “Invisibility makes light go through us, so the sun doesn’t touch us!”
“Bingo, my bright but invisible shishya. The sunlight goes straight through and continues warming the ground, so the sand bakes your feet even past the time when standing there might let the sand under them cool. And that’s why I said you won’t need sunscreen today. You’re immune to UV damage in this state!”
“Awwww, that’s just awesome!” she exclaimed.
I mused, “I think it might actually be required to go without sunscreen. It works by bouncing sunlight away, so that most of the UV doesn’t go into your skin. Although sunscreens are based on natural substances, they’re blended with some that aren’t. I think if we experimented with it, you might end up partially visible with sunscreen on until it finishes soaking into your skin. I’ve never tried it before.”
“One more thing for the research program, then,” she replied. “I’ll just write that down on my…oh, shoot.”
I grinned, then realized she couldn’t see it, so I let out a low chuckle.
Jogging to the remaining exposed canyon mouths and cleaning them up took us until 11am. By the end, we were hot and sweaty, but being in shape, we could hold a halting sort of conversation as we jogged. Kaitlyn was full of questions.
At one point, she got off onto the topic of ways to use invisibility in her conservation work. “Vandals,” she stated, keeping her words spare, tossing them out between pants. “Could we…catch them…invisible?”
“Legit,” I agreed, then went on, “But impractical…sitting around…naked at night…waiting for…action…” I responded in kind. I let her think about it, continuing when she didn’t interject, “What then?…Pop bubble…scare em…into dropping…spray can…and running…frightened of…Hindi dong?”
She laughed briefly at the image through her steady deep breaths.
I went on, “Even if…testimony…admissible…in court…is public…indecency…charge…worth it?”
She thought, then threw out, “Artifact…thieves.”
“Better,” I agreed. “Get…license plate…call cops…baddie caught…red handed.”
We arrived in camp, then took a bit of time to walk around, recovering our breath and flushing the lactic acid out of our muscles. I pulled up a quick sand shower for two and knocked the run’s sweat off us.
Refreshed and recovered, I let the next carrot dangle in front of my shishya. “We need to break camp, and then there’s another fun skill for you to learn today.”
“Isn’t it a bit early to leave? We could be out here for hours more!” she objected.
“They’re the same task: there can be no revelation until after we break camp,” I said, applying a little stick.
“It’s my job as guru,” I replied.
We packed up, then we wheeled the bikes down as close to the opening of this canyon as I dared to take them while visible. I found a kind of sandstone alcove where spring rain runoff sometimes spilled down into the canyon, and I stashed the bikes there, hoping an ill-mannered tourist wouldn’t decide to hike up here and mess with our stuff.
We then turned and jogged back up the canyon, my destination the center of the area we’d cleared, last weekend and this one, biased slightly Northeast by not being able to completely cover the tech horde we’d just left behind, down near the Southwest edge of the area.
I had Kaitlyn lie down on the sand, supine, and I joined her, head-to-head, outstretched hands pushed out towards each other but not touching, our legs spread into a cross shape, as vulnerable and open to Gaia as possible, just the way we’d begun this project.
Kaitlyn didn’t need any more prompting, slipping into a trance as quickly as she was able, following my life presence down into the Earth, leaving our bodies behind on the surface.
In this state, we didn’t need words to communicate. I projected the task at her as raw concepts: «Get bigger; stretch out.» I immediately did that myself, and she followed my example.
We spread our life presences out over the area, almost touching our bikes in one corner, stretching out past the canyon entrances the opposite direction, almost out to the road.
«Open yourself to Gaia,» I projected at Kaitlyn, who overlapped me now.
And we became the canyon network. We became the mesas. We became the junipers, and the sagebrush, and the lizards. We became that whole patch of nature, a few miles wide. The sun baked our dirt and sand. The sun fed our trees. The sun slowly caressed down our cliff flanks and tickled up our rocky crevices. We were no longer ‘Kaitlyn and Davie,’ two individuals spending time together, we were intermixed, with sensations flowing between us and Gaia over that area. What one consciousness felt, so did the other. If a horny-toad hopped into a sagebrush patch, it was our patch, and our toad.
If you’ve traveled at all, you must have been to some kind of scenic overlook, where you could see vast swaths of some amazing scene. Now imagine being the scene, yet knowing it all in far more detail than you can see from afar through the distance haze. Even someone taking a low-and-slow helicopter flight could not see at the level we did in that time and place. And we did it silently, not with a thunderous whup-whup-whup!
We retained our mental powers and a memory that we were once individuals. We did not go insane.
We still knew how to tell time by the sun, and we could still get hungry, so we were thinking it was about time to return to our individual selves and get some lunch when something unnatural pushed in from the same canyon mouth we walked up yesterday, coming up fast! It pushed into our life-bubble like a finger into a balloon, blocking our view past it in a wedge shape, and it would soon pop the balloon.
But then the presence slowed rapidly, then stopped. And we felt a wrongness from it. It tasted…terrible! A desert mouse was hiding under a rock nearby; through its nose, we sniffed, and we knew that smell: gasoline!
My concentration popped at that point. Kaitlyn surfaced right along with me.
“Motorcycle crash!” I hollered as I rose to my feet and began running back towards our abandoned camp.